In TidBITS-362, I wrote about how several upcoming HTML editors use tables or Java to offer free placement of objects. Several readers responded with comments about problems with the Web pages those editors are likely to produce, and with thoughts about where this trend may take us.
Bill Seitz <firstname.lastname@example.org> noted:
Lots of pages on the Web look stupid to me because I set my default font to Palatino 12 instead of the tiny and ugly Times 12. Cascading Style Sheets offer some additional placement control without resorting to tables, but still target their features to publishers attempting exact control over the user's view. I sometimes think these people should just make a giant JPEG for each page and stop the pretense.
Brad Kemper <email@example.com> chimed in as well:
I think free placement is a disturbing trend, not because of the code it produces (I would like not to be concerned with code at all), but because fixed-width pages do not account for the specific needs of people who read text onscreen. Since the first Macs, text has automatically wrapped to fit the size of the window. Now, thanks to programs that create Web pages with items placed to exact pixel coordinates, we lose this capability. Perhaps it is because we are using a page paradigm instead of thinking of Web pages as windows or screens of information. We've taken a huge step backwards. We should take a hint from people who design interfaces for computer programs: good design for monitors is different from that for print.
Sajid Martin <firstname.lastname@example.org> worried about speed, commenting:
I think an important disadvantage could be that using tables to configure the entire page results in much longer page rendering times, and slows down scrolling in a browser. But, I think the trend to make coding - including scripting - unnecessary may be good in the long run for the end user.